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QBU Q3 Excerpt: Renée DeFranco on Human Resources

Renée DeFranco

Every quarter, we present insights from top executives from different backgrounds and functions. For Q3, we gathered insights from three business leaders — experts in operations, human resources, and finance — to help you succeed in Q3. Here are insights on human resources from interim executive Renée DeFranco.

As businesses advance into Q3 and the second half of 2021, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing business leaders? How are things evolving?

As we move into Q3 and for the remainder of 2021, organizations must continue to adjust to life as we move through the pandemic and beyond. Employees and leaders are experiencing fatigue from working remotely, Zoom meeting overload, professional and family stress all brought on by the pandemic. As organizations move to a return to the workplace, they need to understand the concerns and preferences of their workforce, many of whom desire to continue working remotely. Leaders will now need to reimagine their organizations to become more resilient in the future and challenge the traditional employment models that have been in place forever. Leaders need to seize the opportunity to define new employment models that work for everyone so people have the flexibility they have become accustomed to during the pandemic.

Many organizations were forced to build remote workflows, shift in-person retail to e-commerce solutions, thereby increasing the use of technology and automation to adapt to the new realities brought on by the pandemic. This shift also created new opportunities for cybercriminals. Organizations are encountering an increasing number of data breaches, phishing scams, viruses, and other threats.

As organizations continue to evolve post-pandemic, leaders should modify their business models to adapt to the changing environment. They should focus on building a digital transformation strategy and employing remote collaboration tools like the use of instant messaging apps, online file-sharing, and editing apps, and audio and video conferencing, to help the organization and employees work effectively in this future of hybrid work.

What are a few best practices to help leaders overcome the current challenges? What do you see working well?

Leaders should take a holistic look at the entire organization with regard to re-evaluating and revising people policies and procedures that may need to be reimagined to fit the new hybrid environment and consider how these changes will affect their current organizational culture. Many employees, especially new employees, may struggle to connect with the culture in a virtual or hybrid workplace. Ensuring they have the right tools and equipment, as well as leaders reinforcing organizational values on a regular basis, will be imperative to strengthening their culture and maintaining the agility and productivity they may have experienced while fully remote.

Transparency about how decisions are being made with regard to return to work and return to travel will also provide a sense of comfort and clarity to employees so they can manage their transitions from being fully remote to hybrid. People are more adaptable if they are clear about where they and the organization are headed. Therefore, the more leaders can be intentional and transparent about those transitions, the better it will be for all.

Are there any strategies you view to be ineffective?

Lack of transparency, resiliency, and planning would be highly detrimental to the successful reimagining of the business. As leaders plan the future of their organizations and workforce, they need to be clear about how the workforce and workplace will be reconfigured to maintain or increase the agility and productivity they experienced during the Covid-19 shutdown. Leaders should also be assessing any capability or skill gaps that may now exist as organizational structures have shifted. They need to think about how to apply their workforce in new ways to address their new business needs.

What skillsets do leaders need to navigate through these challenges?

Transparency in communication and resiliency are probably the most important capabilities leaders need to possess in this tumultuous environment. Showing empathy for employees as organizations move from fully remote to a more hybrid model is vital if the expectation is a smooth return to work. These behaviors will build trust and strengthen relationships between leaders and their workforce, which will be essential as we continue on the journey to the next new normal.

About Renée DeFranco

Renée is a Senior Human Resources Executive and leader with over 25 years of progressive experience including the CHRO of multiple middle-market businesses in the pharmaceutical and consumer products industries. Renée has a proven track record of aligning human resource strategy with business strategy to achieve significant improvements in employee engagement, organizational productivity, and management capability.

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